Mi­cro­cap Capri­cor soars on in­ter­im PhII DMD da­ta show­ing func­tion­al ben­e­fit for old­er pa­tients

With the in­ter­im analy­sis for its Phase II Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy, lit­tle Capri­cor Ther­a­peu­tics was mere­ly look­ing for a guide­post, a sig­nal, a trend that the ef­fects seen in an ear­li­er tri­al can be repli­cat­ed with a new dos­ing reg­i­men and de­liv­ery method. In­stead, the biotech found it­self blessed with a bas­ket of da­ta points that seem to buck the nat­ur­al his­to­ry trend and sep­a­rate the drug from place­bo in a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant way, more than dou­bling its tiny stock $CAPR in pre-mar­ket trad­ing.

Lin­da Mar­bán Capri­cor

The pri­ma­ry end­point for the HOPE-2 tri­al is PUL 2.0, a mea­sure of up­per limb func­tion and one of sev­er­al ways Capri­cor quan­ti­fied skele­tal mus­cle im­prove­ment. Ex­ecs al­so spot­light­ed pul­monary and car­diac ben­e­fits in the top-line re­sults — fac­tors that are par­tic­u­lar­ly for the pa­tient pop­u­la­tion that they are tar­get­ing, who tend to be old­er and non-am­bu­la­to­ry.

Con­sist­ing of prog­en­i­tor cells de­rived from donor hearts, CAP-1002 is de­signed to re­lease ex­o­somes that kick off a cy­cle of mus­cle re­pair by sup­press­ing in­flam­ma­tion and dri­ving im­munomod­u­la­tion.

Cur­rent­ly, a num­ber of DMD pa­tients take glu­co­cor­ti­cos­teroids for that pur­pose, in­clud­ing pred­nisone and de­flaza­cort (sold in the US by Marathon as Em­flaza). There’s al­so Sarep­ta’s ex­on-skip­ping drug, eteplirsen (Ex­ondys 51), though its ben­e­fits have yet to be borne out; Sarep­ta and a hand­ful of ri­vals are now in hot pur­suit of a sup­posed one-time cure to re­place the miss­ing dy­s­trophin gene in pa­tients.

“While there had been ad­vances in gene ther­a­py, we be­lieve that con­trol­ling in­flam­ma­tion over and above what can be done by steroids is im­por­tant,” CEO Lin­da Mar­bán said in a con­fer­ence call.

Her hus­band, Ed­uar­do Mar­bán, had de­vel­oped the tech at Johns Hop­kins.

Da­ta from the small, place­bo-con­trolled study sug­gest that with a high­er dose than the past and de­liv­ered in­tra­venous­ly, the ther­a­py is work­ing. At the six-month cut, 6 pa­tients were evalu­able in each arm. For those treat­ed with CAP1002 mid-lev­el PUL — think mov­ing el­bows and pulling hand to mouth — de­te­ri­o­rat­ed by an av­er­age of 0.2 on a 6-point scale, com­pared to 0.8 on place­bo. The p-val­ue was 0.0389.

This and grip strength are the on­ly im­prove­ments still sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant af­ter six months (there was al­so a three-month snap­shot), but Capri­cor stressed pos­i­tive trends through­out.

“I’d like to just re­mind peo­ple that this pop­u­la­tion of DMD re­al­ly rep­re­sents more than half of all DMD pa­tients and there re­al­ly have not been ther­a­pies that have re­al­ly fo­cused on this pop­u­la­tion which have just in­cred­i­bly high bur­den of dis­ease,” Craig Mc­Don­ald, the na­tion­al PI and a pro­fes­sor at UC Davis, said in the call.

On the key is­sue of safe­ty, Capri­cor not­ed that there had on­ly been one se­ri­ous ad­verse event among 30 in­fu­sions af­ter it put a stan­dard pre-med­ica­tion reg­i­men in place to mit­i­gate po­ten­tial im­mune re­ac­tions. Two pa­tients had had im­me­di­ate im­mune re­ac­tions to the treat­ment late last year, which prompt­ed the com­pa­ny to put a vol­un­tary hold on the tri­al.

Armed with these num­bers and an RMAT des­ig­na­tion from the FDA, Capri­cor is now look­ing in­to a “lean, ef­fi­cient” piv­otal study to po­si­tion the cell ther­a­py for a BLA — if it can find the cash to do so.

A few months ago it was forced to chop 21 staffers, or half of its work­force, in or­der to car­ry on with clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties un­til the end of this year.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Con­quer­ing a silent killer: HDV and Eiger Bio­Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals

Hepatitis delta, also known as hepatitis D, is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) that results in the most severe form of human viral hepatitis for which there is no approved therapy.

HDV is a single-stranded, circular RNA virus that requires the envelope protein (HBsAg) of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) for its own assembly. As a result, hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection occurs only as a co-infection in individuals infected with HBV. However, HDV/HBV co-infections lead to more serious liver disease than HBV infection alone. HDV is associated with faster progression to liver fibrosis (progressing to cirrhosis in about 80% of individuals in 5-10 years), increased risk of liver cancer, and early decompensated cirrhosis and liver failure.
HDV is the most severe form of viral hepatitis with no approved treatment.
Approved nucleos(t)ide treatments for HBV only suppress HBV DNA, do not appreciably impact HBsAg and have no impact on HDV. Investigational agents in development for HBV target multiple new mechanisms. Aspirations are high, but a functional cure for HBV has not been achieved nor is one anticipated in the forseeable future. Without clearance of HBsAg, anti-HBV investigational treatments are not expected to impact the deadly course of HDV infection anytime soon.

UP­DAT­ED: In a land­mark first glimpse of hu­man da­ta from Ver­tex, CRISPR/Cas9 gene ther­a­py sig­nals ear­ly ben­e­fit

Preliminary data on two patients with blood disorders that have been administered with Vertex and partner CRISPR Therapeutics’ gene-editing therapy suggest the technology is safe and effective, marking the first instance of the benefit of the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in humans suffering from disease.

Patients in these phase I/II studies give up peripheral blood from which hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells are isolated. The cells are tinkered with using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, and the edited cells — CTX001 — are infused back into the patient via a stem cell transplant. The objective of CTX001 is to fix the errant hemoglobin gene in patents with two blood disorders: beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease, by unleashing the production of fetal hemoglobin.

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UP­DAT­ED: Make that 2 ap­proved RNAi drugs at Al­ny­lam af­ter the FDA of­fers a speedy OK on ul­tra-rare dis­ease drug

Seventeen years into the game, Alnylam’s pivot into commercial operations is picking up speed.
The bellwether biotech $ALNY has nabbed their second FDA OK for an RNAi drug, this time for givosiran, the only therapy now approved for acute hepatic porphyria. This second approval came months ahead of the February deadline — even after winning priority review following their ‘breakthrough’ title earlier.
AHP is an extremely rare disease, with some 3,000 patients in Europe and the US, not all diagnosed, and analysts have projected peak revenue of $600 million to $700 million a year. The drug will be sold as Givlaari.

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David Ricks. Eli Lilly

Eli Lil­ly touts $400M man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­pan­sion, 100 new jobs to much fan­fare in In­di­anapo­lis — even though it's been chop­ping staff

Eli Lilly is pouring in $400 million to beef up manufacturing facilities at its home base of Indianapolis. The investment, which was lauded by the city’s mayor, is expected to create 100 new jobs.

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Am­gen chops 172 more staffers in R&D, op­er­a­tions and sales amid neu­ro­science ex­it, rev­enue down­turn

Neuroscience wasn’t the only unit that’s being hit by a reorganization underway at Amgen. As well as axing 149 employees in its Cambridge office, the company has disclosed that 172 others nationwide, including some from its Thousand Oaks, CA headquarters, are being let go.

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Stephen Hahn (via Senate HELP Committee)

Stephen Hahn gets through Sen­ate’s soft­ball job in­ter­view — but most­ly plays dodge­ball on the is­sues fac­ing the FDA

Anyone looking for fresh insights on what kind of FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn will be got precious few clues during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the nomination.

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Op­di­vo/Yer­voy com­bo for melanoma fails in key pa­tient pop­u­la­tion

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s efforts to expand their checkpoint inhibitor combination have run into another recalcitrant cancer.

The NJ-based pharma announced that a combination of Yervoy and Opdivo didn’t beat out Opdivo alone in patients with resected high-risk melanoma who had very low levels of PD-L1. The drug combo couldn’t improve recurrence-free survival in these post-surgery patients.

Ver­tex's stel­lar quar­ter car­ries on with French re­im­burse­ment deal

Vertex’s golden quarter just got brighter. About a month after the US drugmaker finally clinched a deal with UK authorities to cover its slate of cystic fibrosis (CF) drugs following years of protracted negotiations, the company on Wednesday secured a deal with France for its CF therapy, Orkambi.

After the UK, France has one of the largest CF populations outside the United States. Achieving French reimbursement unlocks an ~7000-patient CF population, around ~2500-3000 of which will likely be eligible to receive (and be reimbursed for) Orkambi, Stifel’s Paul Matteis wrote in a note.

Nello Mainolfi, Kymera via Youtube

Kymera hands the helm to No­var­tis vet — and found­ing CSO — Nel­lo Main­olfi

Kymera Therapeutics is turning to a co-founder to run the company.
The protein degradation specialist with a deep-pocket syndicate behind them has opted to give the helm officially to Nello Mainolfi. The new CEO is a veteran of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. He joined Atlas Venture in their entrepreneur-in-residence program and helped launch Kymera as the CSO three years ago with Atlas’ Bruce Booth.
The boast at Kymera is that they’re angling to create a new class of protein degraders, a popular field where there’s been a variety of startups. One of its chief advocates is NIBR head Jay Bradner, who launched C4 just ahead of joining Novartis, where he’s also been doing new work in the field.